HOW TO CHOOSE A CONTENT MARKETING AGENCY

MARKETING

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CONTENTS

21 min read

It can be daunting hiring a content marketing agency.

Especially if this is the first time you have outsourced your content and relied on an external company. You’re trusting them to manage your brand, SEO, content, and online marketing better than your team working in-house.

What’s more, you’re trusting them with your time and money.

If they’re work is not up to scratch, then not only have you wasted money but you’ll also have to spend hours putting things right. Let’s say they’ve written a blog post and it’s totally off the mark. It’s your reputation on the line if that goes live onto your website, so you’ll have to spend time making sure it’s correct before it goes anywhere.

This is time which should be spent on other areas of your business, while your content marketing agency does what they are employed to do: create high quality content that drives people to your website.

But by doing your research first, you can make sure you find the right content marketing agency to achieve your goals.

It’s about working with a company who understands where you want to be, and who are capable of developing strategies to get you there. You can’t just pick the first one from Google because it seems easier, you need to dig deep into their services to make sure they are the right fit.

So let’s get started.

Outline Your Project

Before you can find the right content marketing agency, you need to fully understand the project. This enables you to communicate with the agency about what you actually want to achieve so that any campaign is focussed and strategic.

You should start by asking…

What Is the Content For?

As a rule, content marketing should entertain, inspire, and educate. It should serve a purpose and should make people want to invest in your offering. After reading your blog post, customers should be engaged in your products or services and should feel encouraged to buy.

Effective content marketing triggers a response. Whether it’s urging people to make a change by telling them about the benefits of using recyclable materials, or solving a particular problem such as helping them with their remortgage, it should fulfill user demand.

Understanding the purpose of your content helps you reach your customer base and push them towards a purchasing decision.

On top of these 3 core principles, you also need to think about what you want your content to do. You should consider the following:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Drive traffic to the website
  • Increase sales

Who Are Your Core Audience?

Before your agency can understand your core audience, you need to understand who you’re targeting first. Having a vague idea isn’t ideal as content needs to be tailored towards the interests and needs of your desired customer.

The more information you can provide the agency with the better, as this gives them a clear idea of who you’re trying to reach.

You should consider questions such as:

  • Where does my customer live?
  • Where do they work?
  • How old are they?
  • What are their interests and hobbies?
  • What are their favourite brands?
  • Do they have children?
  • What is their income?

Defining these points allows you to tailor content to suit your ideal consumer. This sets the foundation for any piece of content and it ensures it is pitched at the right level.

For example if you define your customer as being aged 55 and uninterested in modern technology, then utilising a platform such as TikTok will not be relevant. However, if they were aged 20 and interested in video and social media, then this tactic would be absolutely relevant.

This is why knowing your customer and understanding what types of content they will engage with, is key. Otherwise you could have the best content in the world but if it’s not relevant and meaningful for your audience, it will fail to generate results.

If you don’t know the answers to these questions then don’t fret. You can use our customer persona worksheet to help you get your marketing right.

black digits on white paper

How Much Does Content Marketing Cost?

Now, this one might seem familiar.

We’ve already covered the cost of content marketing on the Canny blog so I’ll keep this section short and sweet.

Unfortunately the answer is far from short and sweet, as content marketing is difficult to quantify. In terms of what it can do for your business, the potential is huge. From adding credibility to your brand, to positioning you as an expert, to generating leads for years to come, this type of marketing is golden.

Customers trust companies who know what they are talking about, and content gives you the opportunity to demonstrate this.

So if you’re wondering ‘how much will content marketing cost?, it’s helpful to think about the longer term value of this tactic.

How Long Does Content Marketing Take to See Results?

It’s totally natural to start wondering when your content marketing will bear fruit.

Especially if you’re paying an agency to create these pieces of content on your behalf – you expect to see results.

But when it comes to content marketing, you need to be patient.

You’ll usually start seeing results in 6-9 months as Google’s algorithm favours more established websites who have been creating a consistent flow of quality content. That’s why it takes time for your content marketing to pay dividends by building up a steady increase in organic traffic.

Hopefully this will stop you from stressing when you find your content on the third or fourth page of Google.

Finding the Right Type of Agency for Your Project

Finding a content marketing agency might sound simple but it can be quite confusing. Especially when companies call themselves a whole host of different things, even when they provide a very similar service (on the surface of things anyway).

Below are a few of the terms you might have seen when sifting through the internet:

  • Content marketing agency
  • Digital agency
  • Creative agency
  • Branding agency
  • Marketing agency
  • Social media agency

To make life nice and easy, Canny provides an all-in-one solution.

Whether you need help with your content, website, or branding, we do it all under one roof. Our team of experts know what it takes to make your company a success and can tackle your business from every angle.

Content is where it began at Canny.

By creating helpful, insightful, quality content, we have been able to grow our business and work with fantastic clients to help them do the same. Content is, and always will be, KING.

What Makes a Good Content Marketing Agency?

When searching for a content marketing agency, you will never be short of options.

Plug the search term into Google and you’ll be served with hundreds of companies telling you they can do the same thing.

So how do you separate the chancers from the experts?
people pointing at a laptop

Their website

This has to be your starting point.

If their website is poor and doesn’t engage you to find out more, then what does that tell you about their grasp of content marketing?

When people search for your company, you can guarantee they will look at your website before doing anything else. As you’re trusting the agency to manage your content and your online efforts, their own website needs to reflect their level of expertise. They need to practice what they preach by making sure their own virtual shop window is up to scratch.

They shouldn’t be pitching the importance of content marketing to you, if they’re failing to follow best practices themselves.

Blog

If they don’t have a blog, then scratch their name off your list.

This is where your interest in their services should end.

You’re looking for a content marketing agency who understands the importance of content. A blog is the absolute foundation of your marketing efforts, and any reputable content marketing company would know this.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the company is. Having a blog allows a company to provide their users with expert information to build a sense of trust and standing in their industry. You have complete control over this space and can use it to your advantage to increase organic traffic.

Whether you’re uploading ebooks, videos, infographics, or interviews, use your blog to engage your target audience. This is one of the first things a content marketing agency should tell you to do.

However, if they don’t have their own blog then I would assume they don’t think it’s important. Oh how very wrong!

Case studies/ social proof

Any business is going to tell you they’re the best and that you should choose their services over someone else.

However, when a real customer who has used their services before tells you they’re good, it means a lot more. This is because they’re not biased, and they’re not gaining anything from encouraging you to buy the product or service. It’s a genuine recommendation as they are telling you about their own positive experience.

As consumers we’re not daft and we know a content writer is being paid to do their job. Therefore, including case studies and customer testimonials from previous clients are a great way of demonstrating your expertise. Let you customers do the talking and tell people about how you helped them solve a particular problem.

Any (good) agency should have a page dedicated to case studies or examples of their previous work. This lets you browse through projects that they have previously worked on and get a taste of the type of work they do.

Have they worked in your industry before?

What was their approach to the problem?

The case study should include how the agency helped the client to achieve results, as this is the real proof of success.
brown football table with players

Their team

When engaging the services of a content marketing agency, you need to know who you’re working with. These guys are going to be an extension of your existing team and you’re trusting them with your time and money.

As a result, you need to be confident that they have the right team in place to do the job.

Find out the structure of the team including who manages projects, who will be your port of call, and most importantly, who is in charge of the content. If they’re an agency who takes content seriously, they will have a dedicated team working on your project.

They might have a Senior Content Strategist to oversee and manage the direction of your content, and a Junior Content Strategist who will be responsible for creating and optimising your content. You will also want to know how much experience these guys have as they are the driving force behind each and every campaign.

Do they possess the necessary skills to really make your content work? Do they understand what it takes to make this a success?

These are the questions you need to address as you don’t want to get 3 months down the line and realise they’re not up to the task.

A solid understanding of SEO

As we’re talking about content, it should be standard that your chosen agency is clued up on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

It’s not enough for them to just create content, they need to make sure this reaches your desired audience.

They need to be capable of developing strategies that get your content seen by understanding Google’s algorithm. By implementing SEO best practices, it increases the likelihood that your content will rank higher on search engines results pages, therefore making your website more visible, attracting more traffic, and creating more opportunities to turn prospects into customers.

Can your chosen agency explain this to you?

Well they should!

How can you put any confidence (and indeed money) behind them, if they don’t understand the importance of this process?

What’s more, they should be able to explain the technicalities of SEO in a way that you understand. It’s no good feeding you a whole bunch of jargon which might sound good if you don’t understand what this actually means.

You might not have a clue about SEO or why it’s important and that’s fine. This is why you’re hiring a content marketing agency to come in and manage this on your behalf. Don’t let an agency confuse you by using fancy terms and tech speak – make sure there’s substance to what they are saying.

At Canny, we understand how confusing content marketing terms can be and how this acts as a barrier to communication. That’s why we’ve put together a complete A-Z of content marketing terms in case you ever come across a word you’re unsure of.

Measurable results

So they tell you they’re capable of creating great content, but where is the proof?

Anyone can tell you that, but a good agency should be able to back it up. When working with clients, they should be keeping track of their performance to make sure content is generating results.

In today’s world, every aspect of marketing is measurable.

Whether it’s website visitors, twitter followers, or email subscribers, this information is readily available. And what’s more, it’s highly valuable too. By understanding the data behind your marketing efforts, you can tweak future campaigns to make sure they’re focussed. By understanding what’s working and what’s not, you can be more strategic and craft campaigns that engage your audience.

Ask an agency for proof of how they have helped other clients. They should have a report which shows how their input has helped the client to fulfill their goals.

This adds credibility to their offering and gives you solid evidence of their services working. By seeing the results they have achieved for other businesses, you’re more likely to believe that they are capable.

Easy to contact

It’s no good having a content marketing agency that you can never get in touch with. Let’s say you have a burning question about the title of a blog post or have some ideas you want to discuss for a new video. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to pick up the phone and speak to a member of the team?

After all, you’re working in a partnership and this is a two way street.

You don’t want to be passive and only check in with your agency when something goes wrong. The best and most creative work is achieved through collaboration. An agency should understand that your business is your baby and they should appreciate you wanting to be involved.

As such, they should be easy to get in contact with throughout the working day. You certainly shouldn’t be waiting weeks to hear back from them as this shows a lack of interest and commitment.

Before engaging an agency, find out how they communicate with their clients. Do they use platforms such as Zoom, Teams, Google Docs, or only rely on email?

You also need to find out their process. How often do they check in with clients? Perhaps they hold weekly meetings to run through ideas, or perhaps they prefer quarterly catch up sessions to check how a project is progressing. You need to decide what works best for you and satisfies your needs.
woman using grey binoculars

Searching for Content Marketing Agencies

The search for a good content marketing agency can feel overwhelming.

Especially with so many options to choose from. From one man bands to small companies to large corporations, you’re well and truly spoilt for choice.

Let’s start with the search engine giant that is Google.

Google and search engines

By simply typing ‘content marketing agency’ into Google you will be flooded with search results.

Obviously there’ll be the usual adverts so I would scroll past those and concentrate on the organic search results. If they’re on page one, then that shows they understand SEO already!

You need to consider whether location is a big factor. This depends on several things including how much face-to-face interaction you want to have, and cost. If you’re working in a major city you’ll probably find cheaper rates elsewhere.

For instance, Canny is ⅓ cheaper than agencies based in London purely because of our postcode. This is something to consider if location is getting in the way of your decision.

Your own network

The best way of finding a good content marketing agency is through recommendation.

Maybe someone you know in another company has used their services before and had a positive experience. Similar to client testimonials, these are real customers who will be able to give you their honest opinion.

As a result, you’re more likely to find an agency who is a good fit for you.

Follow them on social media

Social media is golden when it comes to finding a good content marketing agency. Check out a few of their latest posts and get a feel for what type of content they’re posting.

Also take note of how they speak to their audience. Are they quite chatty or formal? Are the nature of their posts humorous or more corporate? Having a quick scroll through their social channels will give you a sense of their personality and will help you decide whether or not you want to work with them.

Lots of agencies use social media to introduce their team so this could also be a great chance to see the faces behind the computer screen.

Narrowing Down Your Shortlist

Once you’ve compiled a list of 4 or 5 agencies, it’s time to reach out and find the one that suits you best.
If you’re struggling to narrow your list down then its time to be brutal!

Don’t waste your time making contact and starting the conversation if there’s already red flags. You need to consider everything you have found out during your research and be honest with yourself if there’s something you don’t like.

Is there a piece of content that you enjoy? Do they have a lot of negative reviews? Do you just get a feeling that the partnership wouldn’t work?

Whatever your gut is telling you, LISTEN!

The more focussed and relevant you can make your list the better, as this will save you time and energy. The last thing you want to be doing is spend your entire day ringing around every content marketing agency in your local area.

Make contact

The best way to make initial contact is by email. Although you might want to call first so that you can speak to someone at the other end of the phone, it might take a while to get through. Instead of becoming frustrated, sending an email is a much better approach.

This also gives you the space to properly outline the scope of your project and what you would like to achieve. Crafting your email is very important as you want to make sure it doesn’t get buried at the bottom of their inbox.

Make your email clear and show that you have put effort into your search instead of just using a copy and paste method.

Agencies appreciate this and are much more likely to respond to you quicker if they feel as though you value their services.

Step back and wait

Once you’ve reached out to your shortlisted agencies, it’s time to sit back.

All you need to do is wait for them to reply.

You should also consider the way they reply. You can gain lots of useful insights about a company from how they respond to new business.

For starters, you should consider?

How quickly they reply

The tone of their reply (is it personal or generic?)

Be careful not to discard a company simply because they took longer to get back to you. It can be a tough one to judge as some companies take a while to respond because they lack enthusiasm, whereas others are just really busy.

It can be a tough call to make but as always, go with your gut.

You can’t go far wrong when you follow your gut instinct.
person holding two apples

Compare responses

Agencies will usually reply in a number of different ways depending on their process.

This includes:

  • No Reply – If they don’t reply within 7 days then they’re either not interested or too busy. Whichever is the reason, it’s worth finding out at this early stage!
  • Request for a call / meeting – This is the usual scenario and means they’re interested in the project. It makes total sense to have a meeting with you before putting together a proposal or quote as they need to understand your business first and how they can help.
  • Acknowledgment and denial – in some cases, an agency will deny the project straight away. This is absolutely fine, and essentially means they weren’t a good fit! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Acknowledgement and quote – If you’ve sent over a detailed marketing brief in your initial email, then the agency might not require any further clarification. They might feel as though they understand the project enough to propose a quote. You need to decide whether this works for you. Personally, I think a meeting beforehand is best practice so you can get to know each other a little bit first.

Go with your gut

If you’re really stuck between two different content marketing agencies then it’s time to go with your gut! Trust your own instincts and choose the company that you’re swaying more towards.

Maybe you’re not sure why but you just seem to be leaning slightly more towards one agency than another. And there doesn’t have to be a solid reason for this. Unlike every other part of content marketing which can be measured by using facts and data, your gut feeling is something you can’t explain.

Sometimes you just ‘know’. Maybe you felt a little flat after meeting with them and just didn’t get that ‘excited’ feeling about starting your project. Or maybe you just didn’t click with a member of their team and are questioning how the relationship would work.

Whatever the reason, be true to yourself and have faith in your own judgment.

How to Choose a Content Marketing Agency

Choosing the right content marketing agency can have a huge impact on your business.

Whoever you choose to partner with is representing you, and they have a huge responsibility to deliver. Your reputation is important so it’s vital you choose an agency that you can trust and rely on to do a good job.

By taking the above points into consideration when carrying out your research you can be sure you’ve found the right fit for your business. Whatever you do, don’t just pick the first one you see because it seems convenient. Hiring a content marketing agency is a big investment, so it’s worth taking the time to dig a little deeper.

At Canny, we work with a range of clients to help them achieve their goals. We’re an agency who not only loves content, but also understands its potential in growing your business. Our team of experts can work with you one-to-one to develop strategies that work. Want to find out a little more about what we do and how we can help? Or do you want to send us over your completed marketing brief to take a look at? Either way, reach out to a member of the Canny team and let’s start building your business.